Ask A Chicago Expert: Your Best Thanksgiving Pie Recipe

Ask A Chicago Expert: Your Best Thanksgiving Pie Recipe
Key Lime Pie (Credit:

Key Lime Pie (Credit:

Pumpkin, sweet potato and apple pie: the trident of Thanksgiving desserts. Why not take a stab at something a little tastier, surprising even, to delight your guests or the hostess who will be thrilled with your innovative riffs on ho-hum holiday sweets.

Chef Gillian Clark
The Chicago Firehouse
1401 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 786-1401

Chef Gillian Clark of the South Loop’s Chicago Firehouse says, “I started making this pie when I was 12 or so from a recipe I found at my grandmother’s house. Nana wasn’t a very good cook and confessed that she’d never made that pie. I found it all tattered and yellow amid the glossy shots in her photo album. It didn’t have any food stains on it like my dad’s recipes, so I was sure she had, indeed, never baked this pie.

As I got better at making it, I changed it a little, adding more sugar, more cinnamon and changing the top crust to a crumb topping.  There were times Nana would come to our house for Christmas or Thanksgiving and I always made sure I made this pie. She said it was her favorite and she would skip the pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie that my dad made and have two pieces of this one. While I love the traditional holiday pies like pumpkin and sweet potato, this tart and sweet apple thing is great after all of the rich food—creamy gravy, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole–traditionally served. It’s not custard based so it’s lighter. I’ve got to go with Nana on this one. An apple pie on Thanksgiving is perfect.”

Apple-Cranberry Crumb Pie

The texture of Braeburn apples is perfect for this pie because they soften and release plenty of juice when baked. The Braeburn is also sweet enough to stand up to the cranberries. This recipe makes 8 large slices of pie.


  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 8 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 pre-baked pie crust for a 9-inch pie


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a heavy, large saute pan, heat the butter, sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Add the apples and cook, tossing frequently, over low heat.
  4. Cook until the apples begin to soften (5 to 8 minutes). Toss in the salt and cranberries, then remove from the heat.
  5. Let the apples sit in the pan and cool slightly and make the crumb topping. Then pour the apple mixture into the pie shell.

The crumb topping

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and blend well with a stand mixer.
  2. Break into small clumps and cover the apples.
  3. Don’t press the topping down or worry if there are spaces uncovered. The topping will melt and spread as it bakes.
  4. Place the pie in the center of the oven on a cookie sheet to catch the oozing of hot juice.
  5. Bake it for about 40 minutes. If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover it with foil.

Related: Best Apple Pie In Chicago

(Photo credit: Ani's Facebook)

(Photo credit: Ani’s Facebook)

Chef Erin Cade
3056 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60​657
(872) 206-8553

If you have to bring the pumpkin pie, you really can make it yourself. Pastry Chef Erin Cade, of Ani Sushi + Japanese Kitchen, enjoys making this recipe because it is quite simple but really delicious. Cade, formerly of Trump Hotel Chicago and NoMI, says, “It’s the perfect pie for fall gatherings.”


  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of evaporated milk


  1. Paddle eggs with the sugar until combined.
  2. Add puree, salt and spices.
  3. Pour in the cream and milk while mixing on low.
  4. Pour into 9-inch pie crust and bake at 325 degrees F until center is set but with a little jiggle.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Served chilled.

Related: Ask A Chicago Expert: Fall Comfort Food Recipes

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at